Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Final Four Odds: Surprise, Surprise

Tom Izzo has his Spartans back in the Final 4 but as the underdog

What? That Duke is the favorite? No, that one was easy. The big surprise to me was that Michigan State and not Butler was the biggest underdog at +450 (Butler is +350).

I thought for sure the Bulldogs would be the big dog coming from the Horizon League even in their home time.

Could it be the possible distraction facing Tom Izzo with a very lucrative offer from Oregon or the loss of Kalin Lucas?

I think as great as Izzo is he is becoming known as a guy who gets to the big game, but has trouble winning it. Izzo has gotten the Spartans to five final fours previously but has only won once back in 2000.

Duke is the favorite as expected at +150. West Virginia is +225. And yes, I think the champion comes from this semifinal.

The MOP favorites are Nolan Smith and DaSean Butler at +300.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Will John Calipari Change His Recruiting Style After Another Disappointing Finish?

John Calipari has established himself as the nations top recruiter

Kentucky’s season came to an end Saturday night and likely so did the college careers of fab freshman John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.

John Calipari made a habit of recruiting ‘one and done’ players at Memphis signing two top 5 draft picks in a row in Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans and continued this upon his arrival to Lexington.

The signing of Wall, Cousins, and the rest of the highly rated freshman class is what propelled the Wildcats from a NIT team a year ago to a number one seed this season.

But after a 29-2 regular season and a SEC Championship, no banner will be hung in Rupp Arena.

With the likely departure of at least two and maybe up to four NBA lottery picks, Calipari will have to again rebuild Kentucky for another run at a national title next year.

That could start with the nations top prospect, Brandon Knight, signing with the Wildcats to add to four star Stacey Poole and five star Enes Kanter.

But can we expect better results next year using the same blueprint?

The team that beat Kentucky on Saturday, West Virginia, has 0 McDonald All-Americans.

Bob Huggins club is led by Senior Da’Sean Butler and in the Carrier Dome Junior Joe Mazzula carried the Mountaineers to a Final Four berth. Another Final Four ticket was punched by Butler who does not have any burger boys, but rather a team made up by the sum of its parts.

Some may question where Wall and Cousins’ focus was with may be looming in the NBA Draft; I won’t. They were the two best players on the court, but they were beat by a better team.

Calipari’s first season in Lexington was a success and a failure at the same time. He led Kentucky back to the top of the SEC and back into the nation’s elite. But he didn’t win the national championship or even get Kentucky to the Final Four.

Any school not named North Carolina, Duke, UCLA, or Kansas would love to have that kind of season, but the expectations at Kentucky are different.

Those expectations are why top players come to Kentucky and why Calipari will continue to use them in hopes of attaining that allusive national championship.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

NCAA Tournament Mascots Superlatives

SI.com has a slide show up of various mascots from the NCAA Tournament. Here are some superlatives for the top mascots.

Most Likely To Appear In A Porno - UCSB Gaucho
This guy just looks like he wants to take you to his villa for the weekend.

Least Intimidating - Old Dominion Monarch
Reminds me of the lion in Wizard of Oz

Most Economically Challenged - Kansas State Wildcat
We couldn't splurge for the whole outfit?

Most Hated - Duke Blue Devil
I don't think this one needs an explanation

Celebrity Lookalike - Wisconsin Badger
Who looks eerily similar to their head coach Bo Ryan

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Kentucky-Wake Forest Prediction: Cousins, McFarland Prepare For Rumble

DeMarcus Cousins better watch out for Chas McFarland's right hook

#1 Kentucky vs #9 Wake Forest
East Region
New Orleans, LA
7:15 ET

We get our first ACC vs SEC matchup in round two when Wake Forest tries to knock off number one seed Kentucky.

The Wildcats cruised to an opening round win over East Tennessee and then watched an OT thriller with Ish Smith and the Deacons pulling out a one point win over Texas.

This game has two matchups I am very interested in watching. The first is John Wall vs Smith at the point guard. These two are probably the fastest ball handlers from baseline to baseline. Both are the catalysts for their teams, but can also be lulled into dribbling too much and not penetrating.

The second, and it may be more exciting than the first, is DeMarcus Cousins vs Chas McFarland. I know you are probably like “what the heck?” but hear me out on this on.

Cousins is by far the better talent, but we all know he can be a bit of a hot head. McFarland is Bill Laimbeer junior playing without abandon underneath the basket.

Chas may lead the nation in technical fouls drawn. I saw him draw a technical foul from Georgia Tech this year because he just walked into the Jackets player huddle and someone pushed him out. Chas was also involved in rumble in the jungle at Clemson Either way, I think McFarland is going to try and get under Cousins skin early and often.

Potential fights aside, Kentucky is listed as a 9 point favorite over Wake. Sorry, I could not find any odds on a McFarland-Cousins bout.

Barring a Cousins meltdown and a poor performance by Wall, I see John Calipari’s club advancing to the Sweet 16.

Pick: Kentucky

More Kentucky vs Wake Stat Comparison

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Tennessee-Ohio Prediction: Vols Must Defend The Three Point Line

Can Hopson and Chism lead the Vols to the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years?

#6 Tennessee vs #14 Ohio
2:35 ET

Providence, RI

The Volunteers are hoping to advance to the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years, but standing in their way is Tournament Cinderella Ohio.

The Bobcats downed #3 seed Georgetown leading nearly the entire game and cruising to a 97-83 win. Ohio was led by Armon Bassett and his five three pointers. The MAC Champions were 13 for 23 from behind the arc for the game. Head Coach John Groce’s club had been hitting 37 percent on the season.

As you would expect from a mid major, Ohio is very guard oriented. Tennessee will have a size advantage inside with Wayne Chism and on the wings with Scotty Hopson, the Vols two leading scorers.

Bruce Pearl’s club is listed as 8.5-point favorite. My gut tells me Ohio is not going to shoot that well again and Tennessee could bust this game open in the second half. But I think the dominance the Bobcats had over the Hoyas has some feeling a little nervous going against them.

If Tennessee can pound the ball inside and defend the three point line like they have all year allowing opponents just 29% shooting, then I like the Volunteers to advance.

Pick: Tennessee
Ohio vs Tennessee Stat Comparison – Statsheet.com

Other Games I like today:
Baylor -200 over Old Dominion
I am riding the Bears to the Final 4 in my bracket and I love their coach Scott Drew who has built this program from nothing.

Kansas State -200 over BYU
Jimmer Fredette could go off and pull the upset, but I think K-State is too athletic for the Cougars to overcome.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Florida State - Gonzaga Prediction: Will Turnovers Doom The Seminoles?

Pssst...the game preview is below!

#8 Gonzaga vs #9 Florida State
Buffalo, NY
7:10 ET

Florida State marches into the NCAA Tournament to face former Cinderella and now Tournament mainstay Gonzaga.

The Seminoles bring the nation’s best field goal percentage to Buffalo. FSU center Solomon Alabi stands 7’1” and his 2.4 blocks per game are a big reason why Leonard Hamilton’s club is so good on defense.

This game presents an interesting contrast of styles like the Georgia Tech and Oklahoma State matchup.

FSU likes to pound the ball inside to their bigs and use those post players as mistake erasers on the defense floor. Gonzaga plays more of an outside game with three of the top four players by minute being guards.

Where this game could turn is with turnovers and free throws.

FSU ranks near the bottom of the NCAA field coughing it up nearly 17 times per game. Looking at the bottom of the list you do not find a whole lot of teams playing in the post season.

Also, even though the Bulldogs are not great at the line (66%) they shoot free throws at a much higher rate than the ‘Noles (27pg v 21 pg) and that could be very important in what is expected to be a very close game.

Pick: Gonzaga

FSU vs Gonzaga Stat Comparison - Statsheet.com

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Georgia Tech-Oklahoma State Prediction: Can Jackets Continue Their ACC Run?

Hewitt needs Iman Shumpert to play well for Tech to pull the upset

#7 Oklahoma State vs #10 Georgia Tech
Milwaukee, WI
7:15 ET

The final of the 3 ACC-Big 12 matchups tips off in Milwaukee Friday night between teams with contrasting styles.

The Cowboys of Oklahoma State like to shoot threes with Big 12 Player of the Year James Anderson leading the charge. Meanwhile, Georgia Tech has two of the best big men in college basketball, Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal.

This game will very likely come down to whose strength is better in the Bradley Center.

The Pokes are similar to Duke who gave Tech their last loss. Besides Anderson, Keiton Page is another outside threat from beyond the arc. When Page scores in double figures, OSU is 27-4.

Where the Pokes are different than the Blue Devils is their lack of size on the inside. Ga. Tech has to take advantage of this. Keys will be keeping their bigs out of foul trouble, especially Favors, and pounding the ball inside.

One of key guys for Paul Hewitt’s club will be point guard Iman Shumpert. The sophomore from Chicago is a very talented player but also very streaky. He can go off for 25 one night and score 2 the next with 7 turnovers. Shumpert has to be on the same page with Hewitt and understand Tech has to play inside, out to advance.

The theme of this Tournament so far has been the three point shot. In only one game (St Mary’s over Richmond) has size played a big part in a win.

I think the favored Oklahoma State uses their arsenal from long range and a full court press in the second half to eek out a win against a talented, but sloppy Georgia Tech club.

Pick: Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State vs Georgia Tech stat comparison - Statsheet.com

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Maryland-Houston Prediction: Terps Hope To Avoid Upset Bug

Gary Williams should not have too much to be upset about Friday

#4 Maryland vs #13 Houston
Buffalo, NY
9:50 ET

This is kind of an obligatory post as I feel pretty safe in saying Maryland is going to win today. Now that I have fully jinxed them let me tell you why.

First, lets start with the Terrapins coach Gary Williams who has not lost an opening NCAA Tournament game since 1996.

Second, their opponent is only in this Tournament because they caught fire in the conference playoff and specially in the Championship Game. The Selection Committee seeded them a 13 seed with a 15-15 regular season record while seeding regular season champ UTEP (26-6) as a 12. So much for the regular season I guess.

Kelvin Lewis got hot for the Cougars pouring in six three pointers and 28 total points to give Tom Penders' club the Conference USA title.

Vegas has installed the Terps as 9.5 point favorites which is only a half a point less than the largest 4 seed gap Wisconsin has over Wofford. Vandy was a 3 point fav over Murray State and Purdue is just four over Siena.

Guard play is key in the Tournament and Maryland has it. Barring another barrage of 3's from Lewis, I see the Terps pulling away in the second half.

Pick: Maryland over Houston

More Maryland vs Houston Matchup Stats - Statsheet.com

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Clemson-Missouri Prediction: Tigers Tangle in Buffalo

Oliver Purnell's prize for a NCAA Tourney win? An orange towel

#7 Clemson vs #10 Missouri
Buffalo, NY
2:35 ET

Two Tigers will tangle in Buffalo in the second of three games pitting the Big 12 vs ACC. Wake Forest gave the ACC a 1-0 advantage with an OT win over Texas Thursday.

These two teams have very similar styles pressing full court for 40 minutes. Missouri coach Mike Anderson is a Nolan Richardson and 40 minutes of hell disciple.

Meanwhile, Oliver Purnell of Clemson is hoping for his first NCAA Tournament victory ever.

But maybe the best part of the matchup will be that the sometimes excitable Gus Johnson is calling the game!

Despite many claiming the Big 12’s superiority, Clemson actually played a tougher schedule (#25 vs #50). Clemson was 6-6 vs RPI Top 50 while Missouri was 4-7. Clemson has a neutral court win over Butler as well as Maryland, Georgia Tech, and a sweep of Florida State. Oliver Purnell’s club did lose to Texas A&M early in the year.

Missouri beat Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and Texas, but did fall to Oral Roberts early in the year and was beaten handily by last place finisher Nebraska in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament.

Clemson fell by two to NC State who then beat FSU to reach the ACC Semifinals, so neither team is coming in hot.

But Missouri’s loss is more concerning since you figure they had to feel they were more on the bubble whereas Clemson had to feel pretty safe. Also, Missouri was down at half and saw the deficit widen to start the second half indicating a lack of urgency against the downtrodden Cornhuskers.

Despite playing a tougher schedule and having a higher RPI, in a close game the downfall of Clemson could be their FT shooting which at 66% ranks near the bottom of the Tournament field.

Call me an ACC homer, but I like the Tigers of Clemson in this one. I don’t think Missouri finished the season very well despite not having locked up a bid. They did not show a sense of urgency last week against an over matched Nebraska team. Can Mike Anderson’s club just turn it on now?

Clemson over Missouri

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tennessee-San Diego State Prediction: Vols, Aztecs Could Be The Best Game Of The Day

Pearl wants to rid his memory of the Kentucky game very quickly

#6 Tennessee vs #11 San Diego State
Providence, RI
9:50 ET

The Aztecs have been a chic upset pick from what I have heard thus far. Many have questioned the Vols mental state after the beating they took by Kentucky in the SEC Tournament.

Steve Fisher who has 1 title and 2 Championship Game appearances coaches San Diego State.

The Vols are the biggest favorite of all of the 6 seeds pegged as 3 point favorites. Compare that to other 6 seeds Marquette (-1.5), Notre Dame (-2.5), and Xaver (pick).

I don’t see either of these teams getting by Georgetown in the second round so I don’t think you lose much either way.

Although I think the Aztecs caught a break getting the late game, they still had to travel cross country after playing through their entire conference tournament last weekend.

The Vols lack of depth will not be a big issue with the longer timeouts.

I think this could be one of the best opening games that goes right down to the wire. But I like Bruce Pearl so much I think he out coaches Fishers in the final minutes.

Tennessee over San Diego State

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Wake Forest-Texas Prediction: Two Reeling Teams Try To Make Amends

Can the power of tie dye overcome Wake's Tournament woes?

#8 Texas vs #9 Wake Forest
New Orleans, LA
9:20 ET

This is the 8-9 matchup of teams that should be 4 or 5 seeds with their talent. Neither of these coaches has had great tournament success as of late.

Wake Forest Coach Dino Gaudio was glad to get the #9 seed because he has lost the four times in Tournaments where he was the higher seed and they haven’t been close.

This is game that could get up tempo with guards like Texas’ Avery Bradley and Wake’s Ish Smith.

I don’t really care for Rick Barnes and the way Texas is playing.

But I really, really, really do not like Gaudio performance in tournaments as of late going out as 4 seed in last years NCAA and getting blown out by Miami in the first round of the ACC.

The nation likes the Longhorns to as a five points favorite, which is pretty high for a 8-9 game.

Texas Over Wake Forest

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Vanderbilt-Murray State Prediction: Are The 'Dores Gone In Round 1?

Kevin Stallings will have his team ready to play

#4 Vanderbilt vs #13 Murray State
San Jose, CA
2:30 ET

Congratulations Vandy on a top four seed. Your prize is a trip all the way out to the San Jose to play a 30-4 Murray State team.

The Racers are a team that shoots over 50% from the field and holds opponents to under 40%. Teams that have done that recently include National Champions North Carolina and Florida. Or at least that is how I remember the stat when ESPN showed it.

Murray State looks like a great upset pick, but they only played 1 RPI top 50 team all year and lost. Vandy is 4-2 against the top 50.

The Commodores are the lowest favorite of all the 4 seeds at –3. Even Purdue without Robbie Hummel against NCAA tested Siena is –4.

The Racers are a chic pick because of their record and everyone associates Vanderbilt with academics and slow white guys.

This Vandy team is different.

Vanderbilt over Murray State

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Florida-BYU Prediction: Gators Hope First Appearance In 3 Years Isn't Short Lived

Billy Donovan will need more luck to get past BYU

#7 BYU vs #10 Florida
Oklahoma City, OK
12:20 ET

The Gators and Cougars kick off the Tournament on Thursday in Oklahoma City.

Florida was the team I was most surprised by getting into the field and as a 10 seed no less.

BYU has one of the best scores in college basketball in Jimmer Fredette, who some have said could be this year’s Stephen Curry.

BYU has been installed a 5 point favorite. That is the highest of all of the 7 seeds.

I did not really think Florida should have been in over a Virginia Tech or a Mississippi State and I think they make a quick exit.

BYU over Florida

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Way Too Early ACC Football Preview Podcast Style

Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech will be in the hunt again for and ACC title

In case you are sick of all the NCAA Tournament talk...

Jay Skipworth from the Gridiron Breakdown asked me to preview the ACC Football season on their most recent podcast (click play on ACC Preview).

We run through all 12 teams, what they lost, what they have coming back, and how their schedule looks.

Please don't hold me to my predictions. Its March.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Duke Hopes ACC Dominance Carries Into NCAA Tournament This Year

Coach K is hoping to cut down at least one more net this year

Duke won the ACC Championship on Sunday and landed a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.

This success does not come as a surprise to Blue Devils fans though. Duke has owned the ACC Tournament as of late winning 9 of the last 12 and has appeared in the finals 12 of the last 14 years.

However, despite all the ACC success Coach K’s teams have struggled as of late in the NCAA Tournament. Duke has not made it past the Sweet 16 since 2004 and has not won a national championship since 2001.

Now, most any program in the country would take that measure of success, but not Duke. Not when your rival has celebrated two national titles just eight miles away from you in that span.

This Duke team has solved one of its defensive woes of the past, with the improvement of seven footer Brian Zoubek and added depth with Mason Plumlee on the inside.

But the Blue Devils still lack overall athleticism in defending the perimeter and rely heavily on three players for scoring.

The ACC Champions should have a relatively easy first two rounds, but the big test could come in the Sweet 16 or in the Elite 8 with a rematch against Villanova. The Wildcats explosive guards throttled Duke last year in the Sweet 16.

ACC title are always a goal in Durham, but can Duke take that next step towards a Final Four or even a national championship this year?

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

NCAA Tournament Will Define John Calipari's First Season at Kentucky

John Calipari knows he has a championship caliber team

John Calipari was hired at Kentucky last Spring to bring the Wildcats back to prominence. And prominence is measured with national championships in Lexington; they don’t have banners for any one of their 26 SEC titles.

Calipari came to the Bluegrass with a rebuilding job on his hands. The Wildcats failed to make the NCAAs for the first time in 18 years under the beleaguered Billy Gillispie. Coach Cal but has brought this program back to the national elite in just one season.

But now the pressure is really ratcheted up on the coach looking for his first national championship.

Freshman John Wall and Demarcus Cousins are very likely gone to the NBA after the season, as is Patrick Patterson. It would be very difficult to come close to the success of this season replacing those three.

I am not saying it is now or never for the Wildcats, but is very likely now or two plus years from now.

For a program who hasn’t won the title since 1998, will Kentucky fans be upset if Calipari is not able to hang the 8th banner in Rupp Arena? The road starts Thursday against East Tennessee State.

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Georgia Tech's Season Nears Defining Point With NCAA Tournament Looming

Paul Hewitt is hoping the ACC Tourney run will carry into the NCAAs

Georgia Tech came into Greensboro, NC and the ACC Tournament squarely on the bubble. They leave coming within four points of an ACC Championship.

After two straight losses to finish the regular season, the Yellow Jackets had fallen to 7-9 play with a talent laden team many thought, including head coach Paul Hewitt, would compete for an ACC title.

Well they did just that on Sunday, down just three with a minute to go, hoping to match their football classmates with an ACC Championship. Hewitt’s team rose to meet the adversity they had largely brought upon themselves.

Hewitt’s critics have been numerous this year, and I have been one of them at times. He now takes a team who nearly won a conference title into the NCAA Tournament with the knowledge that his team can still play a lot better (Tech set an ACC Tournament record for turnovers).

But you can believe those critics will be boisterous once again if Georgia Tech is upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Which brings me to the question: What defines a season in college basketball? Is a good regular season? A good conference tournament showing? Or the NCAAs?

Ask Wake Forest, who last year made it all the way to number one in the country and finished tied for second in the conference at 11-5. But the Demon Deacons lost their first ACC Tournament game to seven seed Maryland than lost to 13 seed Cleveland State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Was that a good season for Wake or a disappointing one?

Georgia Tech Athletic Director Dan Radakovich earlier this week said any discussion regarding the future of Georgia Tech basketball would be held after this season. He went on to say the most important games of the season lie ahead.

Regardless of what happened in the regular season or in Greensboro, this next week (or two) will define Georgia Tech’s season.

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Duke-Georgia Tech Prediction: ACC Championship Preview

Can the Yellow Jackets swarm the Blue Devils for an ACC title?

The ACC Championship will be decided Sunday between a team many expected earlier this week to be here and another that many expected to be here at the beginning of the season.

#1 Duke vs #7 Georgia Tech
TV: Raycom 1PM ET
Greensboro, NC
Live Stats

These teams split the regular season series each winning on their home court.

In the first meeting of the season, Gani Lawal led Ga. Tech to a 71-67 win scoring 21 points on 8 of 9 shooting from the floor. The Yellow Jackets held Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith to 9 points each in the win.

Lawal was not able to make the same impact in the second meeting of the year collecting two fouls in the first minute of the game. His frontcourt mate and ACC Rookie of the Year Derrick Favors also found early foul trouble sitting the final 12 minutes of the first half. The two played a combined forty minutes all with foul trouble in the 86-67 loss. (Link shows the refs for this game)

Duke's big three accounted for 65 points almost equaling Tech by themselves.

Keys to the Game:

1. Under Pressure

Duke's coaches have watched two teams press the Georgia Tech into a 41 turnovers. The Blue Devils are limited on depth, but surely they will use a full court press to wreak havoc on the Jackets careless passes.

The Yellow Jackets have to get much better at getting the ball out quickly from made baskets and into the hands of their ball handlers. Then their guards have to value the basketball and move it up court.

2. Play Your Game

We know Duke lives and dies by the three pointer. In the 19 point win, Duke hit 12 of 18 from beyond the arc including Singler's 8 for 10 performance. The Blue Devils make their living with dribble penetration and kick out for open shots. Georgia Tech has to be able to stop the penetration.

Conversely, Tech cannot fall into a game of trying to match threes. They have to pound the ball inside to their bigs where they have an advantage.

3. Favors for Favors

Derrick Favors is the most talented player on the floor tomorrow. During the Yellow Jackets ACC Tournament run, the freshman has stayed out of foul trouble and that means he has stayed on the court creating havoc for the opposition.

You can bet Coach K is going to instruct his players to go at #14 to try and pick up some early fouls. Georgia Techs needs to play smart defensively and catch some breaks from the officials to allow their best player to make the maximum impact.

In the end, there are too many questions for Georgia Tech to pull of the upset and win an ACC title. The Yellow Jackets have tired legs playing three tough games thus far and the last two within 48 hours.

Barring an off shooting night from Duke and inside domination from Tech, expect the Blue Devils to capture their league leading 18th ACC Championship.

Duke 74 Georgia Tech 64

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

SEC Gaining Momentum Towards Selection Sunday

Miss State prefers to take matters into their own hands come Tournament time

We all expected Kentucky to be here. Miss State maybe not as much, but the Bulldogs are taking matters into their own hands for the second straight year.

The latest projections have Miss State in what would seem regardless of their performance tomorrow considering the Wildcats are heavy favorites.

A poor out of conference schedule has Rick Stansbury's club in their fragile position, but Miss State won the West and has made another SEC Tournament run. Two wins over rival Ole Miss are also what may start the party in Starkville and end it in Oxford.

The SEC has suffered in recent years in the Selection Committee's eyes, but that seems to be turning some this year.

Kentucky is a lock for a number one seed and their East counterparts Tennessee and Vanderbilt are projected as 4 and 6 seeds. This is a far cry from the hand dealt to the top teams last year.

And hopefully for SEC fans it is a new beginning in the NCAA Tournament.

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ACC Falling In Latest NCAA Projections

Despite a 10-6 ACC record, the Hokies are on the bubble

The ACC Tournament final is set with Duke and Georgia Tech set to battle tomorrow at 1PM. The Yellow Jackets should have locked up a bid, but ESPN's Joe Lunardi has not Ga. Tech much despite three ACC Tournament wins. The two wins over RPI 80+ teams North Carolina and NC State are not helping Paul Hewitt's club.

The debate of how much the ACC is down this year is answered pretty clearly in Lunardi's projections having regular season co-champion Maryland as a 6 seed. Third place finisher Florida State checks in next as a 9 seed as does Clemson.

But maybe even more surprising is the precipitous drop of the other ACC teams. Wake Forest, a fifth place finisher is now seeded 12th after a blowout loss to low seed Miami in the first round.

Virginia Tech, who finished 10-6 in ACC play, lost on Friday to that same Miami team and now finds themselves as one of Lunardi's last three in but as an 11 seed. The Hokies ACC record is just enough to overcome a poor out of conference schedule.

But how are the Hokies seeded higher than the Deacons despite being one of the last teams in? Is Mr. Lunardi getting so buried in his brackets he is missing his calculations?

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ACC Tournament Semifinals: Georgia Tech-NC State, Winner Plays for Title

Two teams who were expected to be packing their bags for home by now meet in the ACC Tournaments Semifinal with the winner playing for title on Sunday against the Duke-Miami.

#7 Georgia Tech vs #11 NC State
4PM ET Raycom/ESPN
Greensboro, NC
Live Stats

The Yellow Jackets and Wolfpack have just one meeting on the season, a 73-71 Georgia Tech victory back on February 6 in Atlanta.

The score is a lot closer than the game was for the first 35 minutes, but State's press the last five minutes put Tech into a turnover machine down the stretch. Sidney Lowe's club stole the final inbound pass and had a chance to win with a three at the buzzer that came up short.

That game's ending sounds very familiar to Ga. Tech's Friday quarterfinal victory over Maryland. Paul Hewitt's team nearly blew a 16 point half time lead to the Terps, but some key stops carried them to a win. Georgia Tech managed a victory over the Terps despite having more turnovers (25) than baskets (24).

Saturday's matchup will likely be decided in the post. In February, NC State's Tracy Smith had 22 points while Zach Peacock poured in the same for the Jackets.

Keys to the Game:

1. Press

NC State likes to play a half court game, but they cannot ignore what they did to Georgia Tech in the final five minutes and what Maryland did on Friday night.

The Yellow Jackets have to do a better job of inbounding the ball and not panicking. I think the Jackets need to do a much better job of ripping the ball out on made baskets and not allowing the Wolfpack to set up full court defensively. But Hewitt likes to run more of set out of bounds which hasn't been that successful.

2. Rebounding

NC State's defense played so well on Friday against FSU they held the Seminoles to under 40 percent from the field. The problem is the Noles grabbed 19 offensive rebounds. The Wolfpack don't get a break on Saturday when they face the inside tandem of Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal.

Georgia Tech completely dominated the boards in the first half against Maryland like they should have all year. In the second half they seemed to lose some desire and second chances helped the Terps get back into the game.

3. Inside Out

Both of these teams have great inside players, but to be fully effective they need to get touches.

It will be key for the guards to get players like Smith and Favors to get touches inside to force double teams. When they get those double teams, guys like Scott Wood and Iman Shumpert have to knock down open shots.

I think Georgia Tech is the more talented team, but you just don't know if they can play well for all 40 minutes.

NC State is playing to keep their season alive, but can they play well in a third straight game something they have failed to do all season?

When you have so many questions on both sides I think you go with the talent edge.

Georgia Tech 70 NC State 65

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ACC Baseball Weekend Preview

A little late getting this up, but pardon me with all the excitement in the conference tournaments last night.

The ACC takes the field with the first conference matchups of the season and The College Baseball Blog gives a good preview of each of the matchups, including a top 5 tilt between Virginia and Florida State.


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Thursday, March 11, 2010

ACC Basketball Round Table Compilation

Last week, I posted some questions and my answers to an ACC Round table of bloggers. Here is a compilation of some of the best answers.

1. The national perception is that the ACC is down this year. Duke has been in the top 10 all year, but no one else has come close. Does the conference deserve this reputation? Why or Why not?

I think the national perception is inherently tied to North Carolina. It's just the truth. When Carolina's down, the conference is down, or something like that. The fact of the matter is that although outside of Duke there are no "dominant" teams, the conference as a whole is one of the top three in the country this year. For me it goes: Big East, Big 12, ACC, Big Ten, SEC.

Sure, Ohio State, Purdue and Michigan State are in the Big Ten, but outside of those three teams, with the exception of Wisconsin, the rest of the conference is weak. Yeah, the SEC has Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, but not much else. The fact of the matter is that the ACC will have a good amount of teams in the tournament like they always do. Whether they will play up to their seeding is another story. - Blogger So Dear (Wake)

Yup. And it's not just because UNC isn't one of the top teams. Obviously it's a down year when the ACC loses the Challenge for the first time in history, for starters, but there also just isn't that lineup of dominant players the league usually has. Normally you're happy to take anyone with an ACC tourney bye and pit them against all but the best of the best in any league, but that's not doable this year. VT is a flawed team and probably no more than an 8 or 9 seed in the tournament if they go, and they have an ACC tourney bye. Says something. - From Old Virginia

2. Does Duke have what it takes to make a run to a National Championship? Why or Why not?

This year, I think you could say yes, because of the parity in the entire NCAA. The reason they might come up short is because they get so much of their scoring from the outside, and really don’t run any offense through the bigs. The bigs get their points off offensive rebounds, and that can be effective, but all it takes is for one off night from one or two of Scheyer, Smith, or Singler and they could be out of it in a flash. I do expect them to make a little deeper run this year - Turtle Droppings

Personally, I don't think they've got it in them. Going 17-0 at home was incredibly impressive but the Dookies' spotty performance on the road doesn't bode well for their tournament lifespan. They've got elements of a contender to be sure - great team defense, dynamic guard play, experience - but the Big Three still carry a bit too much of the scoring load for my liking and they've proved one or more of them can get cold simultaneously.

Coupled with the same problems they've had in years past of key guys playing perhaps too many minutes, it's hard for me to see them even making it to Indy, much less taking home the trophy.
In order to win this team has to make jump shots. I think it's that simple.

Can they do that for 6 games in a row? (or 5 in a row since they should likely sleepwalk though whatever lamb they get in the opening round) That is kind of a tall order. I would be shocked if this team wins a title - they just kind of seem to be missing that IT factor that championship teams have. That being said, I would give them a puncher's chance against any team because they play great defense and they have great guard play. - Blue vs Blue (UNC and Duke)

3. We know Duke and Maryland are in, but who else gets in from the ACC? Will we see any surprises on Selection Sunday?

I am thinking six teams from the ACC get in. Georgia Tech’s late season swoon will probably end up costing them a bid unless the Jackets can do some damage at the ACC Tournament. Georgia Tech is 3-6 since the beginning of February with their only wins being over UNC, NC State and Boston College, all at home.

Wake Forest also lost to UNC and NC State but is 5-4 during the same span with a win over Clemson to close the season. The Deacs other two losses of late have been to Virginia Tech and FSU, hardly bad by any measure. FSU, Virginia Tech and Clemson should all be in which means we are spared Seth Greenberg’s perpetual groveling/whining. - Tar Heel Fan

There will be at least six with a possible seventh in Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are trying hard to play themselves out of a tournament berth. They absolutely have to beat UNC in the first round of the tournament and could need another win depending on how other bubble teams fare in their conference tournaments.

Virginia Tech could be in trouble as well if they lose to Miami in the quarterfinals. - Gobbler Country

4. What is the biggest surprise of the season (good or bad)?

It has to be North Carolina's season. I didn't think the Heels would come anywhere close to winning the league, but I didn't think they'd be this miserable. It wasn't a collapse because that would mean they were good at some point in the season. They weren't it was more of a debacle with no leadership or chemistry or desire from the players to turn things around. They mirrored Oklahoma's season pretty well.

- Gobbler Country

Hahahaha surely this question is a joke, right? (*Ahem*) Yeah, I think we all know the biggest surprise was the epic suckitude of the Tar Heels this year. Probably more so that they really weren't able to right the ship at any point - I know they've improved these last two weeks but I think we all expected to see something before that. If we want to get into specifics, I've been totally surprised that a Roy Williams team could have an offense this bad - to not score over 80 in a single ACC game is mind-bottling. There have been a lot of questions asked about Ol Roy's coaching ability this year and I think while he is far, far, far away from the hot seat, there are more than a few people eager to see what he can do with the Heels next year because of the way this year became so debacled.

Agreed that UNC's face-plant that began as soon as the ACC season began was the biggest shocker. I mean can anyone believe they beat MSU and took Kentucky to the wire??? A tie for second would be Maryland's unexpected success and Ga Tech's second half free fall (At the end of January Tech had already beaten Duke, UNC, Clemson, and Wake and was nationally ranked. Wha Happen???)

- Blue vs Blue

5. A couple of teams have had disappointing seasons. Whose seat is the hottest?

I think Sidney Lowe has got to have the hottest seat. It isn’t just this year that the Red Coats have been bottom feeders in the ACC since he was brought in. If they weren’t happy with Herb Sendek, you have to imagine Sidney Lowe is not going please the Wolf Pack faithful. Does the win over Duke buy him another year? Maybe. That certainly has been the biggest win in the program under him and maybe they want to see if he can build on it next year.

- Turtle Droppings

Paul Hewitt. This is about as easy as it gets. Hewitt has a ton of talent and he just doesn't know what to do with it. This team should be a Sweet Sixteen team and they might not even make the tournament.

- Blogger So Dear

There's no other answer here but Paul Hewitt. A couple coaches might be looking over their shoulders (BC's Al Skinner, NC State's Sidney Lowe) but Hewitt has consistently proven himself to be the one coach in the ACC able to squeeze NIT seasons out of NCAA talent.
- From Old Virginia

6. Who is your player and coach of the year? Why?

POY: Greivis Vasquez, MD
COY: Gary Williams, MD

I think Vasquez was the best player in the ACC and I think he meant more to his team as far as elevating the Terps to a regular season co-championship with Duke. Jon Scheyer was good but he clearly had more help along the way. Gary Williams did more with less than anyone else in the ACC. Granted having good guard play solves a variety of ills in college basketball but Williams got significant contributions out of freshman Jordan Williams and a slew of role players. Besides, Maryland was picked for fifth and finished tied for first. - Tar Heel Fan

Editors' Note: Each blogger had Vasquez and Williams as their Player and Coach of the Year

Thanks again to those who participated. Looking forward to an excellent ACC Tournament.
Turtle Droppings
Blogger So Dear
Blue vs Blue
Gobbler Country
Tar Heel Fan
From Old Virginia

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

ACC Basketball Roundtable With ACC Bloggers

As we head into the final weekend of regular season action and into the conference tournament, I thought it would be a good idea to get a round table going from some bloggers around the ACC.

Each blogger will post these questions with their answers on their site and put a link to the post in the comments section. Sometime next week we'll make a compilation of some of the answers.

1. The national perception is that the ACC is down this year. Duke has been in the top 10 all year, but no one else has come close. Does the conference deserve this reputation? Why or Why not?

I do not think the conference deserves this reputation, but I understand why people outside the ACC feel this way.

Most people when judging a conferences’ strength tend to look at the top of the conference and this year the ACC only has one elite team. Certainly Maryland is in that next category, but they just now have gotten into the top 25 because of some early season stumbles.

Also, it does not help the perception of the conference when Carolina is having as bad of a year as it is.

The ACC needs its bell cow program (Duke, UNC, Maryland, Wake, NC State) to be good because that is who most outside the league identify with and two of those teams are way down this year.

2. Does Duke have what it takes to make a run to a National Championship? Why or Why not?

I do not think Duke has the athletic ability on defense to make a run. They are better suited than the previous two years because they do not have a huge weakness inside like they have had; Brian Zoubek has come a long way defending and rebounding in the post.

They have the offense to do it, but if they get into a game with multiple guards who can break down a defense with some outside shooters I think they are in real trouble.

I see Duke getting as far as the Elite 8.

3. We know Duke and Maryland are in, but who else gets in from the ACC? Will we see any surprises on Selection Sunday?

I see the ACC getting in 7 teams with Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech being the final two. The winner of their game Saturday is in and I think if the loser wins a first round ACC tourney game they are in.

I think Georgia Tech is in the more precarious position because they are playing for .500 in the league and could have a very tough day one matchup with an improving North Carolina team.

I think the seeding of these teams could be biggest surprise because teams like Clemson, Florida State, Wake Forest, and the aforementioned Tech schools have a lot of opportunity to move up still with a strong showing in the conference tournament.

4. What is the biggest surprise of the season (good or bad)?

The biggest surprise has to be how North Carolina fell apart. They beat Michigan State and Ohio State and narrowly lost to Kentucky. Then Christmas break hit and the Tar Heels never came back.

I think many of us expected UNC to have a similar season as Hansbrough’s freshman year where a young team got better as the season went along and was solidly in the top 25.

5. A couple of teams have had disappointing seasons. Whose seat is the hottest?

The hottest seat in the league belongs to Paul Hewitt at Georgia Tech. Last year was a major disappointment going 2-14 and this year has to be considered a disappointment without a run in the NCAA Tournament or an ACC Tournament title.

The fact that Georgia Tech has not locked up a bid by March and might finish below .500 in a relatively weak ACC is puzzling considering the talent they have with three McDonalds All-Americans.

But with
such a large buyout, I think Hewitt stays around if Ga. Tech gets into the NCAA Tournament.

Guys like Sidney Lowe and Frank Haith also have to be feeling some heat.

6. Who is your player and coach of the year? Why?

My player of the year is Greivis Vasquez and he may have locked it up last night with Maryland’s win over Duke. He is the engine that makes Maryland go and without him I do not know where they would be. Jon Scheyer is a close second, but I think he has more talent around him than Vaquez.

My coach of the year is Gary Williams. He was able to right the ship after a bumpy start to the season and has Maryland competing for a regular season title.

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